Oakland County postpones flu vaccine program

By: Jonathan Shead | C&G Newspapers | Published October 7, 2019

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OAKLAND COUNTY — The Oakland County Health Division has postponed its public flu vaccination program due to a delay in shipment from the vaccine manufacturer.

Leigh-Anne Stafford, an Oakland County Health Division health officer, said the vaccine program has been pushed back due to the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, “trying to recalibrate the vaccine to make sure it’s matching the influenza strains this season.”

The program, which runs at the county’s Southfield and Pontiac offices, will be tentatively delayed until late October. The Health Division normally begins offering these services in late September or mid-October.

Dr. Joel Fishbain, an infectious disease doctor at Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe, said the delay may cause a larger number of individuals who are unvaccinated to be susceptible to the virus. Fishbain said he’s seen reports from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of a few cases of the virus in Michigan already.

A vaccine takes approximately two weeks to provide protection, Fishbain said, meaning even those who do receive the vaccine could be susceptible to the virus during that time frame if they come in contact with it.

Stafford said that despite the Health Division postponing its program, there are other places a person can get a flu shot this year if they don’t want to wait.

“It’s not just one place you can come get it now, or not just at your doctor’s office . … It’s readily available at a lot of places, which is good. It makes it more convenient for people to easily get it.”

Stafford said that with the increased availability at other places, the Health Division has seen a decline in the number of people it serves, but it still has a large number of return customers who rely on the program to get the vaccine because it’s where they feel most comfortable.

She added that some county residents go to the Health Division for the vaccine because it provides “an opportunity to help individuals (get the vaccine) that may not be able to pay for it.” The Health Division bills for Medicaid, Medicare and most Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance providers.

Fishbain said people who have received the vaccine can still get the flu because the vaccine doesn’t work for everybody. He noted that the vaccine was only 48% effective last year, which is why he recommends taking the necessary steps to protect yourself beyond the vaccine.

During flu season especially, but for all diseases, he recommends washing your hands routinely, keeping your hands away from your eyes and mouth — especially after touching shared objects, where the virus can live for several hours — carrying around Kleenex, and always covering your cough or sneeze.

The flu can become active in a person’s system before they start to notice it, and it can stay active beyond when they feel better, so Fishbain also recommends that people recovering from the flu avoid contact with others as much as they can for a time, even after they feel healthy. If a person begins to feel sick again after a few days, they should immediately seek medical assistance, as they might be at risk of potentially fatal complications.

Stafford said Health Division staff is still providing the vaccine at specific outreach events in various communities. The next vaccine outreach program, which is open to anyone, resident or nonresident, will be held 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Troy Community Center, 3179 Livernois Road.

For more information about this year’s influenza season and what it entails, check out the CDC’s FAQ sheet at www.cdc.gov/flu/sea son/faq-flu-season-2019-2020. For updates on the Oakland County Health Division’s public vaccine program, visit www.oakgov.com/pages/news.aspx#/health-division-postpones-public-flu-vaccination-program.

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